Often patients who wear a nasal cannula also wear hearing aids. There are two main problems that the patient can encounter when these devices are worn simultaneously. The hearing aid gets knocked off of the ear when they remove the nasal cannula and/or they hear the noise of the oxygen running through the tubing.
Nasal Cannula Pulling Off Hearing Aid
Having the nasal cannula knock off the hearing aid is a tricky problem because the hearing aid, being so small, can easily get lost when it falls off of your ear. Things can become increasingly more complicated if the hearing aid falls out without you even realizing it and so when you finally do notice that it is missing, you may not even know where to look for the device.
If you lose a hearing aid within the warranty period it would likely cost you a few hundred dollar deductibles to replace it. If it is outside of the warranty, you will need to purchase a new device.
What Can We Do To Prevent It From Being Pulled Out by The Oxygen Tubing?
If removing your oxygen is pulling your hearing aid out, the first thing to consider is changing the style of the device that you have. The most common type of hearing aids today are Receiver in the Canal instruments with a generic dome on the end. The benefit of this device is that it can fit loosely in the ear canal so that it is very comfortable.
However, if it is so comfortable that you don’t realize that it fell out, then you have a big issue. I would recommend switching from an open dome type to a custom mold inside of your ear. These molds come in various styles, you could ask for a skeleton type of mold that provides the most retention in your ear and is very unlikely to fall out. Almost any behind-the-ear hearing aid product can be converted to a custom earpiece.
A good estimated cost for an audiologist to make custom molds and reprogram the hearing aids to the new acoustics is in the ballpark of $100-$200.
Though this will stop the hearing aid from coming completely out of your ear, it may not stop it from flopping off the top of your ear. Although the device is not in danger of being lost, it is still a frustrating hassle to have it pop off of your ear.
So with that said, I would recommend that the next time you purchase a brand new device, you should buy a completely custom hearing aid that is only in the ear canal. You could choose a very small CIC (completely in the canal) device or a larger ITE (in the ear) device.
Either way, it will solve your problem completely. There may be some sound quality adjustments that you may need to consider depending on your type and degree of hearing loss, but I would recommend having this conversation with your audiologist for more in-depth and personalized details.
“Real Estate” Behind Your Ear
When I talk to patients about getting hearing aids and I see that they are wearing an oxygen cannula, I talk to them about the amount of “real estate” or space behind their ears.
Let’s say you already wear eyeglasses and have an oxygen tube behind your ear, a hearing aid is much less likely to also fit in that same space. It really depends on how much space you have behind your ear.
If your ears stick out wide from your head you might have enough space, but if they do not you may strongly want to consider an in-the-ear hearing aid.
A cheaper and simpler option to the hearing aid falling off of your ear and getting lost is to use an oto-clip (affiliate link to Amazon). It is a simple clear rope that connects your hearing aid to your shirt, glasses, or anything else. Your hearing aid still may fall off and get tangled in the cannula but it won’t get lost. For additional ideas read our hearing aid falling out article.
I Hear the Noise From My Nasal Cannula in My Hearing Aids
The second problem that hearing aids and oxygen tubes have is that the patient hears the “hissing” noise of the oxygen passing through the tube. The sad news is that you will likely hear this and actually should expect to hear this. A normal-hearing person hears your oxygen hissing even from all the way across the room. It really isn’t a quiet sound. Now combine the sound with the fact that your hearing aid microphones are so close to the source of the sound and it will be pretty loud to you.
My only recommendation here is to ask the audiologist you work with to maximize all noise reduction settings in the hearing aids. Hearing aids are generally first fit with the noise reduction settings at a default level, the aggressiveness of these features can be increased and should be increased if you are wearing oxygen.